This was the To Be or Not to Be…Read TBR Pile vote win. At first I thought you gals steered me wrong for the first time, but it turned out you did me right again. J
I read the blurb and just had to read this one. A pro hockey player approaches a woman at a bar on the beach on a bet from his teammates and discovers a whole lot more than he bargained for while she has recently divorced her cheating husband and is dealing with the fall-out while looking at her fortieth birthday as a curse though the younger attractive hockey player who wants to be with her for the night sure does compensate for turning the dreaded 4-0.
Having read this author once before, I remembered how deep and emotional her writing was and that was not lacking in this story, either. The romance is only one of the elements and this read more like women’s fiction at times. David and others share the narration, but this really is Kate’s story. It was hard to read the first half of this book because she’s not in good shape and neither is her life, but then she finds strength and grows. David is a part of that, but it’s really all on her to complete the process of healing and finding happiness. It was a beautiful story in the end and left me sitting there processing Kate’s journey and the lovely life she made in the end.
As I noted, this story starts with best-selling author and teacher, recent divorcee to a controlling cheater, and mother to a hating, angry teenager, Kate Adams sitting at a bar and staring out at the ocean taking stock of her life. She assumes she will now be on the shelf and living a lonely, cold life. Then the unexpected happens when a big, rugged, athletic younger man comes to her table and talks her into a night of fun to celebrate her birthday. She is guarded, but she does have fun. David takes her out to eat and then to the boardwalk carousel and back to the hotel. They talk, they laugh, and they make love. She assumes it’s over, but is wistful when they go their separate ways knowing that he plays hockey for Philly and she lives near Philadelphia.
David Burke took a bet that he could seduce the woman sitting alone at the bar, but it doesn’t take him long at all to forget about the bet and just enjoy the special lady he has found. Kate is like no woman he has been with and she’s a far cry from those who hang around hoping to hook up with a hockey player. He barely knows what to do with the sophisticated woman who talks of interesting things, who has obviously been hurt by her douche of an ex and turns out to be more famous than him as a NY Times bestselling author of books that he’s read and loved. For the first time, he wants more. Then he screws things up not taking her age well and not making a clean break from his womanizing past. Kate makes it clear that he screwed up bad and wants nothing to do with him, but David is a fighter and loves a challenge and in his heart he knows Kate is worth it.
Kate knew that being older than David would be a problem and knew that a guy who could have any woman and did was a bad bet and he didn’t prove her wrong. But now, David is the least of her worries when her ex-husband and his fiancée are going for full custody and her daughter takes every opportunity to jab in her own knife and make it clear that she believes every lie her father told her. Kate has never stood up for herself and has no feeling of self-worth, but she used to and away from her repressive ex she slowly starts to find herself again. It doesn’t hurt that a handsome hockey player is working hard to convince her that she’s something special- particularly to him.
Alright, I got a whole lot more than I bargained for in this one. There was the age difference romance and the situation with the ex. There is so much going on in this one. Not in a frenzied fast paced way, but in a slow build long coming crisis sort of thing. There are multiple narrators and even a few side storylines. Kate and David are the main narrators, but Kate’s daughter and even her ex get significant page time. I enjoyed getting the various perspectives. The story felt more rounded and authentic this way. I also needed a break that the flipping of the scenes gave to me.
I enjoyed that the progress of this story was over months of time because that was the only way this was going to feel right. So many things needed teasing out and so many people including the main characters needed time to grow.
I judged Kate pretty hard when I started reading, but then discovering the abuse she took for 20 years from her ex made me see things in a much different light. It still wasn’t easy to see her so beaten down and fearful, but it totally made sense. His abuse was the controlling, degrading emotional sort sprinkled with a little of the physical so that by the time she is forty, she is far from seeing herself, situations, and others clearly. Things got pretty bleak and bad before getting better. Fortunately, I wasn’t worried about getting so much depth and emotion and expected it somewhat. I even tolerated more angst than is my norm because I was so vested in seeing Kate really make a comeback.
David had his own issues and crisis. He wanted Kate, but he totally screwed things up a few times because he had to figure out how to shift from being a player and a guy who didn’t do relationships to being a real man that hung in there and put in the time with a relationship. Even though he is already famous and the captain of his team, he felt inferior and uncertain which was also why he messed up. But the thing is, this guy knew what an apology was and he knew the quality of Kate. He was uncertain at first, but once he went all in, he was her hero even before she realized it.
Now, Kate’s daughter, Laura, was an angry, confused, hormonal teenager who chose manipulation and guilt as her weapons to make her mother emotionally bleed. Kate had previously never defended herself so all Laura got was a steady dose of her father’s lying venom. I wanted to smack her so hard, but then this was her story, too, and she did grow and go through some tough truth moments.
And that leads me to the Ex, grrrrrr. This needed to be a murder mystery so someone could kill him off preferably in a really horrific manner. Oh, he was a true villain. When David made him almost wet his pants, I was jumping up and down pumping my fist like he’d scored a hat trick all by himself. But that was nothing to the cheering I did when Kate stood her ground with him.
Incidentally, it was quite obvious that the author put the time into the background of the characters and the backdrop. Hockey is David’s world, writing and teaching are Kate’s just as music is Laura’s. And I loved learning Kate’s surprise background just as David did and to see how he treasured this and made it come alive again for Kate. I think having these things and others help make the emotional side and the romance feel so much more authentic.
Anyway, this was a fantastic read and actually makes a nice holiday read since a large portion at the end was over the winter holiday season. I can easily recommend this one to those who want a passionate, deeply-emotional contemporary romance with a sport hero and a literary heroine in an age-difference romance.
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.